Print 21 comment(s) - last by Joe The Dragon.. on Aug 6 at 5:58 PM

Expensive and pointless

It has occurred to me that AMD’s 4x4 platform is a bit pointless, somewhat more-so than Quad SLI. AMD originally announced its 4x4 platform at the beginning of June and nothing else has been really revealed. Sure AMD was demonstrating a 4x4 system earlier in the week but no details were revealed on the 4x4 system at all. This is a little sketchy because for all we know AMD could have been demonstrating a dual dual-core Opteron system. Although this wouldn’t be too surprising as regardless of what AMD marketing tries to say, 4x4 is simply workstation technology reworked for enthusiast usage. This wouldn’t be the first time a processor manufacturer has reworked a workstation product for enthusiast usage, though.

Let’s pick a part the 4x4 platform. Dual dual-core processors, HyperTransport bus, PCI Express compatibility and lastly non-uniform memory access capabilities, check and check. Aside from the removal of ECC memory support it has all the makings of a dual dual-core Opteron system, NUMA and all. Pricing appears to be somewhat similar too as it was revealed earlier in the week consumers can pickup a pair of 4x4 capable processors for under $1000. That’s not including a motherboard which most likely will cost over $200, the SLI or Quad SLI graphics cards for another $600-1200 and lastly a couple hard drives or the system won’t be able to encode a DVD and play a game at the same time.

That’s over $2000 in hardware without counting four sticks of memory to take full advantage of dual-channel and NUMA, keyboard, mouse, monitor, optical drive and enclosure. Last I checked but most enthusiasts are looking for the most bang for their buck and close to $3000 is not within the bang for buck price range.

So that brings us to, what’s the point of AMD’s 4x4 enthusiast platform? Insanely expensive and there’s only so much gain one can achieve. It would appear AMD’s so-called enthusiast platform will be out of reach of most enthusiasts. Instead it looks like it’ll be catered more towards users that purchase Alienware or Dell systems instead of enthusiasts that build their own systems. With Intel dominating benchmarks with Core 2 Duo, will 4x4 materialize or will it simply keep getting pushed back until quad core arrives. It’s hard to convince enthusiasts why they should spend over $2000 on a system with diminishing returns.

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By fxyefx on 7/31/2006 6:04:59 PM , Rating: 2
I really don't see any problems with the 4x4 platform, considering the market it is catering to. From what I've seen, being a computer "enthusiast" is all about spending greater amounts of money for diminishing returns. ; ) But even then, the 4x4 will scale much better in performance than dropping hundreds of dollars more for a single dual-core chip with a slightly higher clock.

When dual-core chips came out, a lot of serious gamers continued buying their higher-clocked single-core chips, saying that dual-core was pointless because games were not yet multithreaded. Dual-core chip buyers were ahead of the curve back then, and their investment has paid off more and more as time goes on. If you have pockets deep enough and reasons good enough (multimedia development and such), why not shell out the money for a 4x4 platform? It will pay off for you in terms of longevity once apps start to become more and more threaded.

There're always top-end, single chips, that go for more than $1000, and motherboards that cost more than $200. 4x4 is a cheaper four-core workstation with better graphics options. Think of it as a prosumer camera - much more money than someone taking snapshots would be willing to pay, but perfect for someone who likes to dabble in the high end without being full-fledged professional.

Why call it a desperate move? You could say the same about Intel's quad-core chips that are really just two dual-cores slapped together. I don't see how Intel's first quad-core bus-choked chip is any more "legitimate" than having two dual-core AMD64 chips. They're simply solutions for those who need them.

RE: Cons...?
By Anh Huynh on 8/1/2006 12:31:51 AM , Rating: 2
Its because its no different than the current available Opteron dual platform. Games barely take advantage of multithreading, not to mention making use of four cores.

RE: Cons...?
By Viditor on 8/1/2006 9:29:23 AM , Rating: 2
Its because its no different than the current available Opteron dual platform

Can you think of a single Opteron platform that can use 4 video cards?

RE: Cons...?
By Phynaz on 8/1/2006 10:15:06 AM , Rating: 3
RE: Cons...?
By Furen on 8/2/2006 6:01:57 AM , Rating: 2
Form factor is a bit unfit for an ATX case, though.

RE: Cons...?
By Viditor on 8/2/2006 6:42:00 AM , Rating: 2
Not to mention the fact that 4x4 can use DDR2 non-registered Ram...

RE: Cons...?
By dwalton on 8/4/2006 5:38:55 PM , Rating: 2
It looks desperate to me. Why? Because they are marketing it as an enthusiast part and not as a cheap workstation part.

This is like Ford dropping a F-350 diesel engine into a honda civic frame and marketing the new ford civic to street racing enthusiast.

There is nothing wrong about AMD releasing the 4x4. But the people who going to really make use of this system are the people looking for a system that can do some heavy lifting and not those looking for a speed demon, running 3dmark06 as a performance guage.

RE: Cons...?
By Joe The Dragon on 8/6/2006 5:58:54 PM , Rating: 2
Why call it a desperate move? You could say the same about Intel's quad-core chips that are really just two dual-cores slapped together. I don't see how Intel's first quad-core bus-choked chip is any more "legitimate" than having two dual-core AMD64 chips. They're simply solutions for those who need them.

but the amd chips are not bus-choked so will be get a lot more out of them and when amd true quad-cores come they will blow away intel FSB choked ones just like there old duel-cores.

Duh, i never heard of trickledown effect
By a1trips on 7/30/2006 8:42:03 PM , Rating: 2
The point is simple, what is extreme hardware today is mainstream tomorrow. which means you missed the wood for the trees in this random doodling of words.
Competition will ensure , and take this as a prophecy. one year from today, 4x4 will be mainstream hardware, and be best bang for buck.
QED, in one year.

By irsyz on 7/30/2006 10:47:14 PM , Rating: 2
...or a desperate attempt to wear the performance crown at any cost.

However, bringing Dual CPU back to the desktop market is something I am totally for.

By Anh Huynh on 7/31/2006 1:25:36 AM , Rating: 2
Highly doubtful 4x4 will be mainstream hardware, dual CPU's have been around for a long time and they're far from mainstream. Mainstream quad core is more plausible.

RE: Duh, i never heard of trickledown effect
By androticus on 8/1/2006 3:47:57 AM , Rating: 3

one year from today, 4x4 will be mainstream hardware, and be best bang for buck

It has been possible to have 2 cpu's almost forever, yet it has NEVER become mainstream. Now, here is an important fact: the relative benefit of 2 single core chips will be HIGHER than the relative benefit of 2 dual cores, the reason being those 2 cores are already taxing the memory bandwidth past the recent limits of single core systems. This condition will obtain for higher cores as well. What it means, is that the BEST conditions for multi-chip solutions to emerge on the market have already past. The trend will be for multi-chips (in every strata of the market) to be LESS relatively beneficial over their single chip solutions that ever before.

4x4 is frankly an act of desperation on AMD's part. It is kind of sad, really. Even look at their recent modest price cut on FX-62 to something like $870 or so. The entire implication of that absurd price is that it is a "top of the market" product, which it is not at all (anymore) -- it now competes almost head on with the 6600 (not even the 6700) of Intel, and that is only by not overclocking the 6600 -- hell, even the "lowly" 6300 was beating the FX-62 under stable air cooled over-clocking in recent benchmarks:
Only psychotically deluded fanboys will continue paying a premium price for a middling market product. I predict that FX-62 sales are going to almost halt at that price, and that you'll see it quietly come down to just above the highest Athlon X2 in just a few months. And AMD may not again have a part that can compete in the $1000 space, for quite some time.

The tremendous overclockability of the new Core 2's (and the already proven higher bus and core clocking Xeon) indicates Intel is clearing playing an incredibly shrewd tactic: they are purposefully keeping their Core 2 chips very conservatively clocked, to stay in the same clocking space as AMD, yet still clean their clocks performance-wise, AND reduce power consumption dramatically--why stretch out to the max on introduction, when you can bury your competitor, offer much greater value to consumers, avoid problems for yourself, and have LOTS of room to compete still. It is a brilliant strategy, because no matter what AMD tries to do, Intel can respond almost immediately. If AMD can get their clocks up higher on the 65nm shrink, then Intel can immediately launch higher-clocked Core 2's. But if AMD doesn't raise clocks, merely shrinking will only buy them lower power, more on par with Core 2, an extremely "ho hum" new offering.

By Tyler 86 on 8/2/2006 5:18:34 AM , Rating: 2
Assuming you sang the praises of AMD's performance lead when they had one, it seems to me like you're Fairweather Johnsoning the whole thing.

Whoever's on top is on top, and compeition is a good thing.
If AMD can build, offer, and survive an effective launch of '4x4' hardwarem that is a good thing. Moreso if it is competitive compared to Intel's offering.
2 cheap low-end dual-core AMD processors in a quad graphics core system could be a viable bang-per-buck alternative...
When the AMD CPU & ATi GPU merge, combind with 2 or more GPUs per graphics card, you could conceivably have the power of 16 ('4x4') graphics processors, the mere prospect of which astonishing for the enthusiast market.

Diluted (not deluded) fanboys will buy it, certainly... but there are fewer of those in the PC market than there are in the console market.

If by 'quite some time', you mean vaguely the length of time to rework their architecture, surely.

Saving money on production may indeed be a brilliant strategy for Intel, but if, as you say, they have clocking headroom, why are they not offering even higher performance tiers?

It's the same story as Intel gave with the amazing original Pentium Ms -- certainly it had headroom, certainly it performed well, outperforming the desktop segment by a sizable margin, but it wasn't a desktop chip, it was a mobility chip.

Now the Core 2, branching from that design, is a desktop chip, not an enthusiast chip. Their 'enthusiast' chip variation isn't much different in respect to the normal Core 2 offerings than the FX60/62 chips are to AMD's X2 offerings...

They are simply a variation of a new generation of processor architecture. The Athlon 64/X2 architecture came in the middle of the Pentium 4/Ds, and forced Intel to abandon their clockspeed based ratings...

AMD's next-generation architecture may meet half-way into Intel's Core 2 design, but Intel is definantly stepping up the pace... With this 4x4 offering, even if they are atleast on-par performance wise with the Core 2 in their next generation chips, they have the potential to sell more chips.

Intel isn't going to immediately launch higher-clocked Core 2's, even if AMD can get their clocks up - economicly, there's no point.

They're focusing on trumping AMD's next generation product, and so is AMD. This is just one option.

Approximately a 6 months to a year from 4x4's release, it will be mainstream hardware, with possibly the best upgrade potential, and highest performance headroom.

By Viditor on 8/1/2006 9:33:06 AM , Rating: 2
AMD said that it will not only offer systems running two of its dual-core processors with system integrators, such as Alienware or VoodooPC, but will also offer bundles of two processors in one package, making the 4x4, or Quad-Father, technology available in the do-it-yourself (DIY) markets. The pricing on such bundles will start from approximately $1000, according to AMD’s Pat Moorhead

By Anh Huynh on 8/1/2006 11:15:43 AM , Rating: 2
By bundle meaning two processors for under $1k, thats not counting the motherboard and everything else.

By Viditor on 8/2/2006 6:38:40 AM , Rating: 2
Actually, all of the bundles I've ever seen included the motherboard...

By Hokum on 7/31/2006 4:05:12 AM , Rating: 2
A friend of mine uses a virtual server system, which hosts multiple "servers" a DB server, web host, test server and a live server. Something like this maybe of interest for him but probably very limited for your usual foaming at the mouth gaming enthusiast...

Just like the GPU war
By Trisped on 8/2/2006 7:20:06 PM , Rating: 2
Just like the GPU war, it is all about having the most powerful system availible. No one has to actually buy it, just want it, or know who makes it.

By TacticusV1 on 8/3/2006 3:56:21 PM , Rating: 2
how about we look at what else could be made to go in a HT socket :)

physics processors
maths coprocessors for uni\shiny calculations and stuff
wait how about a coherent HT gpu?
a raid controller could go in it bar the actual connections
then again you could probably get the connectors on there as well just use something with multiple drives per cable and ddr2 as the ram for it :)
specialised chips for video encoding?

so really there is a lot more then just a cpu that could go in here :)

2 video cards
By Joe The Dragon on 8/6/2006 5:56:23 PM , Rating: 2
You do not need 2 video cards with this system. You can just get 1 video card and 2 cpus makeing the cost less then what you put in your article.

More cpu power will be needed in windows vista for all of it's back round tasks + your A/V apps, spyware apps, and other thing pepole run in the back round.

2 Perspectives
By Hydrofirex on 7/31/2006 3:50:55 PM , Rating: 1
For one I TOTALLY agree that this is at heart a desperate attempt to garner the performace crown at any cost (Exactly like Quad SLI was for Nvidea). It is just a news driver - 'Hey, look at us! We're still really fast and cool too!'

BUT, some might have said something similar about x64 when AMD started pushing it, and they did effectively leap frog Intel on that one. Now, x64 is just standard - FINALLY. And, FINALLY, I'm reading of games that are utilizing it to presumably leverage increased perforamce!

It's the same for Quad SLI, and Dual Dual-core. Nothing is going to be optimized for either of those solutions - heck, basic multithreading is just now starting to be built into software. So, even though these 'look at me' products may not be at all practical for anything but benchmarks today, it is fascinatinly cool to think that AMD might start something bigger here. I personally felt rather cheated by dual core systems when the came out as I was definatley expecting dual processor systems by now.

Maybe in a year they'll be Enthusiast level - like, for real ;)


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